Category Archives: Influence

How Might You Engage with Children and Young People about the Nazis March in Charlottesville?

The Charlottesville march of hatefulness and weapons was terrifying!  Seeing and/or hearing the aggressive and vile outburst is frightening and complicated to process for our children and young people. We know this because it is a lot to process for us adults.

I think about how many parents and grandparents may want to help the children and young people in their lives to have an understanding of why the Nazis must never gain power again.

The topic of Nazism is something that parents and grandparents may find difficult to speak about with the children and young people in their lives.  I offer some information here that may be helpful to you.

Stories can help young people to begin to understand a big and complex concept. This can be true for the big concept of Nazism, which is a terrifying concept to learn about.  The idea that some people use power to control and seriously harm other people because of the other people’s race or religion (or for other characteristics) is more than unsettling.  It is frightening.

I share with you a children’s book, Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust, by Eve Bunting because this story is both accessible and thought provoking.  Also this is the kind of book you can read to children or young people of whatever age you think is appropriate.

Terrible Thing Eve Bunting Book Cover

This allegory may provide a way to begin a conversation. A dialogue is a great way to connect to individuals – old or young.  This is a topic where the convener will want to appreciate, respect and honor the prior knowledge and current thinking of the young people you engage and converse with.  And, by framing this as a dialogue or conversation around the discussion of this book – you are opening the door to additional interactions in the days, weeks, and months to come as you potentially return to the book.  Plus, because you will have read it aloud – you can restart the conversation by just referring to the shared experience you had around to book.  The dialogue may pop up weeks or months after the read aloud.

This book has the potential to open up deep thought and sharing around many topics that are of importance today.  They include, and are not limited to: social injustice, bystanders, violence, spreading terror, the Charlottesville march, and/or the possibility of ‘normalizing’ something that is not normal and not appropriate.

Please think about what I am recommending and embrace the concept that you will read this book aloud.  Sure, many children or young people could read it on their own and those same children or young people would likely benefit more from sitting close to you and hearing you read this story to them. And when you are the reader, it sets a tone for the dialogue you want to engage in following the story.

You might get the dialogue started by saying something like: “Wow, take a minute to think about what you just heard.  What are you thinking about?”  Or, “Would you like me to read it again?” – if the answer is yes – you might say. “OK and as I read it think about what you would like to talk about related to this story or what you might want to ask me about.”

And as you begin to get one or more of the listeners talking – try to keep them thinking and talking by saying to them: “Thank you, please tell me more about that thought.” Or, if you are reading it to two or more children or young people, you might ask the brother who is listening to his sister, “What do you think about your sister’s thought?”

As you listen will want to express an understanding of what was shared.  You can do that by paraphrasing what the child or young person said. If one of your grandchildren said, “Grampa, I didn’t like the way the other creators said mean things about the animals that were gone? Like when the birds where gone the creatures said those birds where always so loud.”  You might respond, “It sounds like you didn’t feel like it was right to talk badly about the animals that vanished.  Can you tell us more about what that got you thinking about?”  Or, you might respond by say, “It sounds like you really noticed that when the other creators said things – like about the squirrels ‘never sharing’ that you thought that that was kind of nasty for the other creators to say.”

And you can probe about a topic that hasn’t come up yet like the Holocaust.  You might say, “Who will read the full title of this story to us and tell us why you think the word Holocaust is in it?”  And if more probing may be needed, you might say, “Please listen to me as I reread the introduction found just after the author’s page.”  After you have reread it, you might say, “Who wants to try to put into their own words what we just heard?” Or, “Have you heard about Nazis and the Holocaust? What do you know or what do you want to know about Nazis and the Holocaust?”

You may find that the conversation goes at a pace that is slower than usual.  That is normal when a topic is serious and troubling.   You may find that there is silence and a desire to hold and look at the book. There is no one way children or young people will or should react.

And, if you are looking for ideas to discuss with the children or young people you share this with you might check out online resources such as: Fighting Injustice by Studying Lessons of the Past Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust by Eve Bunting with special attention to Lesson 1.   Or, Making Choices: Bystander, Perpetrator, Victim, Upstander, created for 3rd through 5th graders by the For Action Initiative.   Please know that there are many, many resources on the internet and you may find other ideas that help you to create a rich and meaningful dialogue with those you read it to.

If you want to see the illustrations and hear the story read aloud and you can do so on You Tube in as a video.  The video is intended for educational purposes.  I really encourage you to get the book, either from your library or by purchasing it (it is currently is available as a $10.00 paperback).  And, once again, I am encouraging you to read it aloud.

Below is a famous quotation/poem by Martin Niemöller. You may just want to read it as you your prepare for your dialogue.  And/or you may choose to read it to the children or young people you are sharing Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust with.  Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The quotation stems from Niemöller’s lectures during the early postwar period

Advertisements

A Time for Striving To Understand Our Neighbor

 

From my point of view, it has always been essential to understand the thinking of our neighbor’s. I am not saying that it is a common practice or that I am good at it.  And I do believe that to appreciate how others feel about being ‘included’ or ‘not so included’ in the community is a big part of what it takes to make a community. To be aware of their view of the future and possibility that may lie ahead for them, their family or their friends.

Now, in February of 2017, it is becoming more and more clear to many of us that we don’t have access to our ‘neighbors’ thinking other than through parody or even mockery.

I have been looking for accessible voices of those that might be able to help me understand how it is that so many of my American ‘neighbors’ choose to support Donald Trump.

We benefit from living in East Lansing: and one of the many benefits is that each February, at MSU, there is the Slavery to Freedom lecture series open to the entire community.  It is a tremendous resource! Last week’s speaker was Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post opinion writer, MSNBC contributor, and he made several excellent points provoking thought and discussion.  The comment that stuck with me is when he challenged us all to seek out voices other than the voices that we agree with in an attempt to learn more, understand more and appreciate more.

Jonathan has a podcast, Cape Up and as I was listening to some of his interviews, I came across this recent one.   Arthur Brooks explains on January 24th how dignity links Trump to Obama.  I found it fascinating and thought provoking.  I started to think a little deeper than I had been about how others chose to vote for Trump.

Go to iTunes, or whatever you get your podcasts and search for Cape Up and then listen to Jonathan’s conversation with Arthur Brooks from January 24, 2017.

To anybody who wants to explore a thoughtful new podcast, I recommend Cape Up with Jonathan Capehart.

jonathan-capehart

Read These Books by John Lewis- they are a valuable source of the American experience

 

I recommend that everyone, all moms and dads, gramma’s and grampas, aunt and uncle and caring neighbors go to a library and borrow these three books.  Or go to a bookstore and buy them.

Then read them and talk about them with others.  John Lewis was one of many individuals that intentionally put his life into to the civil rights movement with a deep commitment and clear awareness of the personal cost that may be paid for marching into the challenges of segregation and injustice.

Once you have read, thought and talked about these books – I suggest you reach out to a young person.  Someone in their twenties, teens or younger and ask them to read your copies and to talk with you about the stories. With the younger children, you might share these with – you may want to read them aloud as you sit side by side with your daughter, grandson, niece or neighbor.

The conversation that comes from this sharing could open new learning for all and new opportunities for growing close.  These heartfelt discussions might lead to a thirst for more learning about this and related topics and for more important sharing between the two (it could be more) of you.

Our American journey has not been a straight line.  It has not been without pain.  The journey continues as WE strive to form more perfect unions amongst and between all.

Enjoy these three important books!!!!!

Note: the picture of the three people in this post is of Nate Powell, the illustrator of the books, John Lewis, the author of the books and Andrew Aydin a co-author of the books.

Being an Other-fucused Person Can Contribute Greatly to the Common Good!

Change the World: How Ordinary People Can Accomplish Extraordinary Results by Robert E. Quinn (2000)

I like this book. I recommend it to people that are thinking about how a family, group, organization or big system (like a government) moves forward, backward or becomes stagnant. He makes the point that what seem unchangeable might, in fact, be changeable. Also like the book because it sets out the kind of tasks and paths that reasonable normal people might benefit from following to move a family, group, organization or big system toward the common good.

 

This book is ambitious and, as a result, paints a clear broad picture of what it takes to contribute to and impact groups or large systems. Complexity is embraced by the author and, therefore, his change method is not the norm. He explains and makes sense of the challenge to focus on the common good (What Quinn also called the ‘journey of collective fulfillment’) for organizations and groups of people.

 

Quinn makes the point that he feels that ordinary people can become profoundly affected as change agents.

 

Change_the_World_Quinn

 

The One and Only Ivan

“At its heart, of course, an animal fantasy is as much about humans as it is about animals – about things we most fear and things we most love, about pain and sadness, but also about redemption and hope.”

“In Ivan’s story – both real and fictional – there is hope.”

“Children know all about sadness.  We can’ tide it from them.  We can only teach them.  We can only teach them how to cope with its inevitability and to harness their imaginations in the search for joy and wonder.”

“Nothing, nothing in the world, can do that better than a book.”

Katherine Applegate shared these words as she accepted the Newberry Medal in 2013.

My words, related to The One and Only Ivan, are: Read it!  Read it to kids of all ages, much like you have read Charlotte’s Web to children of all ages. Read it for yourself, too.   Give this book as a gift to readers, beginning readers and future readers.  This is a book for families to enjoy together – to read and reread The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

The_One_and_Only_Ivan

Prescription for These Times: A Thousand Acts of Civility

 how_are_we_going_to_be-scaled1000

As a 67 year old guy, who has been in engaged public service for decades, I believe that much can be accomplished when ‘we’ choose to work ‘across differences’ in service to the common good. I have been part of such efforts. I have seen things occur when people have focused on the common good. It can happen!

And today, here in America, it seems that ‘commonality’ is not prized. From my perspective today’s politics are ripe with discord, dysfunction and degradation of others. I agree with Parker J. Palmer when he writes that the politics of today seem to be “intent on dividing us so deeply that there will be no more ‘we’ in ‘We the People’ — and thus no way for us to reach even a rough consensus on the common good to which we can hold our leaders accountable.” He sees hope if we can breathe in new life to ‘We the People’.

I choose to be hopeful. I believe that hope is bigger than fear, discouragement and weariness put together. I also believe that action is better than inaction. This is not a time to let frustration immobilize us – We the People! The ‘us’ I refer to is everyone. People who see things differently are willing to struggle toward a better future together.

Palmer has come to the conclusion that: “Though much of our political discourse is toxic, ‘politics’ is not a dirty word. It’s the ancient and honorable effort to come together across our differences and create a community in which the weak as well as the strong flourish, love and power collaborate, and justice and mercy have their day.   Yes, that’s a vision of politics that will never be fully achieved. But every time someone abandons that vision and turns to cynicism, democracy suffers one more wound in the death of a thousand cuts.   Just as democracy can die a death of a thousand cuts, it can be given new life by a thousand acts of civility.”

Take a minute to read his entire essay, Breathing New Life into “We the People” and begin your ‘thousand acts of civility’. Begin to re-frame the situations you encounter into opportunities. Opportunities build to relationships were we ‘turn from ire to inquiry’ and all benefit from creative, respectful engagement.

 

 

 

Bridging Gaps to the Future

Each of us matters in moving forward with intentionality

We all are people and people can grow, change and evolve

Progress starts with understanding the present

“What is . . . is”

And by having a clear vision of a preferred future . . . progress has direction

Then bridging the gaps between “what is” and “what might be” becomes the mission

The work

Movement towards a preferred future will likely require:

innovation

adaptation

collaboration

welcoming the unknown

motivation to learn

deep reflection

honest evaluation

Progress comes from embracing opportunity in the middle of uncertainty

We all must be willing to use our current knowledge and dispositions as fertile ground to grow more

more knowledge, and

more willingness and ability for:

innovation

adaptation

collaboration

welcoming the unknown

being sincerely motivated to learn

deep reflection

honest evaluation

    Jerry Jennings  March 3, 2015